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CD Review: Manu Chao 

La Radiolina

The Deal: Multi-cultural, multi-lingual son of Spanish political exiles, brought up in Paris, writes and performs passionate songs of both joy and sadness, with verve and conviction.

The Good: He can't sing all that great, his tunes are sing-songy, repetitive. His song structure is child-like and simplistic. He uses found instruments, often recording on the fly and he usually sings in Spanish, but also French, Portuguese, Italian, Arabic, Wolof and yes, occasionally English. Yet, all these negatives tastefully combine to create a sum far better than the individual parts. Wildly energetic, the songs are rousing, infectious, thoughtful compositions. This is no corporate rock, no music borne of focus groups or teen demographics, but a global call for action that speaks to people of all ages. All the material is good and listenable. The single off the CD, "Raining in Paradize," is a thumpy, punky paean of sadness, irony, humor and defiance based on current levels of international madness and mayhem. He uses words like calamity and atrocity rhyming with hypocrisy and democracy to prove his point. "Bleedin' Clown" is more personal while "Panik, Panik" and "El Hoyo," though in French and Spanish, blur the lines between folk, punk, thrash, ska, rai and rock.

The Bad: If you don't get the words, you're missing half the fun, but it's still subversive, celebratory and sounds great. Also, a great excuse to learn Spanish.

The Verdict: Matches his previous recordings, maybe better. As good as it gets, my favorite of the year.

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